Friday, May 25, 2012

Jesus is not Interest Relief...

I have a student loan, it sucks.  Every month a large organization requires me to give them money in order to pay a debt that I owe them because they gave me the means by which I could gain a bunch of knowledge that I thought would be useful to me in my day-to-day activities and make me more powerful and important to the rest of the world.  Turns out I was wrong.  It has not really helped that much to have gained all this knowledge (although, I could and would make the argument that it was worth it because I met my wife there).  Nevertheless, each month I would be required to make this payment so that I would be right with the organization, keeping them from sending me threatening letters and phone calls, destroying my credit rating, and  eventually requiring the sacrifice of my first born son (only in very extreme cases).
HOWEVER, in the amazing mercy of our supreme leaders, the Canadian Government came up with this thing called interest relief.  It means that for those of us who don't have any way of paying those student loans right now - because a B.A. is useful for nothing in the real world - you can put your student loan on hold, they will pay the interest so you don't gain more debt, but the student loan people are OK and don't threaten to burn down your house or send a plague of locusts to eat your garden (sorry, exaggerating again).
Trouble is, the debt never goes away.  I still owe these people, always will until that debt is paid for.  Honestly, this debt is not impossible to pay off.  With some hard work and determination, eating Mr. Noodles, downsizing my lifestyle and getting a second job, I could probably knock it out in a couple years.

I had another debt too - different kind of debt - one I inherited from a long lost relative of mine.  Turns out we all have this debt. It comes from a guy and girl who thought it would pay off for them if they got some extra knowledge.  They thought it would make their pretty sweet set up just a little better.  Jeepers were they wrong.

Anyway, the boss man came up with a little system, kind of like debt relief, relief so the debt could be managed because the penalty for this debt was pretty serious, as serious as a heart attack, litterally.  A bunch of guys, kind of like debt specialist or collections agents (depending on if they were legit or not) would do some stuff on behalf of the rest of the people, stuff that seems weird to us with animal blood and sacrifices and festivals, but it managed the debt at least until next year when they'd do the whole thing over again.  In the mean time, their were lots of rules people had to follow, things they had to do and not do, to try to not add to that debt.  Stuff that seems weird to us; no eating bacon, no working on Saturday, no wearing wool/linen blend clothing (which I guess makes good fashion sense) and 610 more if you care to read them, and then care to keep them.  I bet you break 20 of them before the end of the day (even if you only break one, those collections guys were coming after you anyway).  Unless you were and Israelite, by the way, this debt relief wasn't really open to you, your debt was a life sentence (more accurately a death sentence).

However, a new debt management specialist came on the scene about 2000 years ago.  He had a new plan.  It's a better deal all around.  It's almost too good to be true, that's why so many people don't sign on the dotted line.  It goes something like this; no one, ever, in the history of humans, since our first long long lost Granny and Gramps who earn the first debt, has ever lived up to the debt relief plan, and no one is able to, not even the big 10.  It was never really the point anyway.  The point of the the debt relief plan was to point us to the perfect thing that God offered us the first time, life with Him, and that He was going to do something to return us to debt free living.  The first people chosen for interest relief (Israel) got a decent deal, at least they had some way to manage the debt, but we got a "debt paid in full" deal.  That's way better.

Jesus debt management plan was debt destruction, He went directly to the source of debt, wrote a check in his own blood and cashed it in.

Imagine this call from the student loan office.  "hello Mr. Cook, your debt has been payed, you won't need to send anymore checks, sacrifice any more goats and you're now free to put Bacon bits on anything you like.  This guy Jesus sent us the payment.  And by the way he said if you tell all your friends, he'd take care of their debts too.  Welcome to a life of debt free living Mr. Cook."

So if I got that call, I probably wouldn't argue with them about it.  I'd probably stop worrying about sending checks every month.  I wouldn't be held accountable any longer to all the rules and agreements under the first debt relief plan.  If the debt were paid for, I'd be free from obligation to that agreement.  Jesus didn't just pay the money I owed and the interested I've accrued over the years, he actually went to the source and destroyed the thing that caused the debt (sin) and beat the effect that debt had on us (death).  The best part is he's willing to offer that plan to anyone who'll ask him for it.  Free of charge.

The Bible (post Jesus new debt management program) is full of things that tell us we are free from the law (the old program), free from performance (looking like we've got it all together) and free from condemnation (punishment for not being perfect).  If you want to see how free we are, read Paul's letters again and see how many time he tells you, you're free from the law, free from the power of sin, free from religious obligation and totally free to live in the reality that Jesus has set you free to live by the power of his spirit, not by you're own hard work.

I like this one...

1 So now there is no condemnation for those who belong to Christ Jesus.2 And because you belong to him, the power of the life-giving Spirit has freed you from the power of sin that leads to death.3 The law of Moses was unable to save us because of the weakness of our sinful nature. So God did what the law could not do. He sent his own Son in a body like the bodies we sinners have. And in that body God declared an end to sin’s control over us by giving his Son as a sacrifice for our sins.4 He did this so that the just requirement of the law would be fully satisfied for us, who no longer follow our sinful nature but instead follow the Spirit (Romans 8:1-4 NLT)
Jesus isn't interest relief, he's payment made in full.
(p.s. if anyone wants to send a check to pay of my student loan, please message me, I'll be eternally thankful.)

Friday, May 18, 2012

Almost Christian

Do you ever feel like you're an almost christian.  I'm not sure exactly what I mean by that but sometimes I think I'm just not quite all in.  It's like I get the salvation part, believe in Jesus ask for forgiveness, zip zap zip, I'm good, I think I'll walk the dog.  But am I really all in?  I like to think I am.  I really want to be.  Like what if Jesus came along and said, "ok, you've been an ok guy, kept most of the commandments, of course you've messed up a bunch of times, but I'll take care of that... just go sell everything you own and give it to the poor, and then we'll go get something done."  He's been know to do that, what if he says it to me.
Wait, you mean my house? I haven't even finished renovating it yet...  Wait, my guitars?  how am I going to lead people in worship if I do that, that's what I got them for...  My cell phone? you want me to get rid of my cell phone?  what would that prove... Well I mean, they are yours, but you're not serious, right?

Yeah that's how I feel sometimes.  I haven't actually heard him say that yet (at least I don't think) but what if he does.  Is that the measure of a real follower?  You tell me.  Lot's of us are happy to tell people we love Jesus, but what if he calls us to do something crazy, is he worth it?  Because if he calls me/you to do it, it's got very little to do with me/you.  In fact it's always all about Him; bringing glory to him by showing his grace to someone who's never seen or heard it yet.

If we're called follow him doesn't that mean everything.  I mean dead is dead right... unless Jesus gives life back.  I don't know exactly what Jesus is calling me to right now, but I know if he says to do something I don't want to be an almost christian, (he called them luke warm and plans to vommit us out of his mouth).  I don't want to have a long intillectual conversation that eventially talks me out of it, I don't want to rationalize it away, I don't want to choose myself over him.  I just want to respond, all in on red.  It's not really gambling is it.  It's a sure bet.  There's a great Andrew Peterson song called "Dancing in the Minefields" (makes me almost cry when I watch the video...maybe I'll let it out someday).  The lyrics go like this:

Cause we bear the light of the Son of Man
So there's nothing left to fear
So I'll walk with you in the shadow lands
Till the shadows disappear
'Cause he promised not to leave us
And his promises are true
So in the face of all this chaos, baby,
I can dance with you
So lets go dancing in the minefields
Lets go sailing in the storms
Oh lets go dancing in the minefields
And kicking down the doors
Oh lets go dancing in the minefields
And sailing in the storms
Oh this is harder than we dreamed
But I believe that's what the promise is for

I used to love dancing.  Confession, I've always loved hip hop and wanted to be a break dancer, I know, who'd have believed it.  But I've always been affraid to do it in case I looked stupid.  I think I feel that way about doing what Jesus says too.  What if it looks stupid?  In fact, I'm certian I'll look foolish to the world, break dancing or following Jesus.  When I used to listen and respond to him more often, he frequently told me to do things that make me look a little crazy, but they were always for someone else, about someone else, never about me.  Jesus let me share in the joy when it touched someone or brought some freedom or encouragement to someone, but it was always his joy.  I think I want to start dancing with Jesus again.  Just so you're not dissappointed, this isn't a hip hop song, it's about waltzing with your wife, but I think I'll be the bride and let Jesus lead from now on.  It sounds a little wierd I know, but that's what he compared us to so get over it.  Maybe Jesus will decide he wants to break dance instead of waltz, I'm ok with that too, maybe I'll pull a hamstring, and I'm sure it'll look rediculous but I think I'm ok with that now...